Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Recent Auburn football history a hit, miss

As an institute of higher education, Auburn is a first-class university.

It was founded in 1856, and it became the first land-grant college in the South.

It underwent several name changes, until just 61 years ago it was changed to Auburn and will most likely never change again.

My wife has an uncle who graduated from there and eventually retired there, mostly because his daughter and her son, landed there. After many years as a school principal she's getting her doctorate at Auburn, where she is an assistant professor and a season-ticket holder.

Like so many SEC members, football is Saturday's religion.

Academically and athletically no one associated with Auburn believes they live in the shadow of Alabama.

Yet, someway, somehow, after Pat Dye leaving, the football program seemed to become something of a slippery slope.

Terry Bowden followed Dye, went 47-17-1 (.731 winning percentage) in six seasons and was fired allegedly because of pressure from a booster.

Tommy Tuberville was brought in and regularly beat Alabama, but was head coach when an Auburn plane landed in Lousiville, Ky., in 2003 and offered Bobby Petrino the job.

Everyone denied it until a picture of the plane on the tarmac at a Louisville airport showed up.

The one guy who kept saying it was a bad idea to do it before the season was over was ordered to be on the plane by a booster. Later, Athletic Director David Housel, the greatest Auburn man ever, was reassigned.

The next season the Tigers went 13-0 and the wolves were off the porch until 2008, when Tuberville went 5-7 but made history by being the first college football coach to get a settlement for breach of contract.

An Auburn booster had contacted Houston Nutt about the job before the season was over. Nutt called his agent Jimmy Sexton, who also represented Tuberville and had drafted the contract that called for the $5 million buyout if any other coach was contacted before the end of the season.

Tuberville, tired of the power of the boosters, took the money and headed to Texas Tech.

While no statutes will ever be built of Tuberville, he remained popular enough with the masses to win a U.S. Senate seat in his first election in Alabama.

Gene Chizik followed Tuberville, won a national championship (Gus Malzahn was his offensive coordinator) in his second year and was fired two years later.

Malzahn ran the program for eight years, beat Nick Saban three times, and was fired after the 2020 season and given a $10 million of a $21 million buyout that came from boosters, allegedly two boosters.

Now Bryan Harsin is the latest big man on campus on The Plains. His first head coaching job was at Arkansas State where he followed Malzahn. He was 7-5 with the Red Wolves and 69-19 at Boise State.

The Tigers outscored Akron and Alabama State by a combined 122-10 to open the season.

They lost a tough game at No. 7 Penn State, 28-20, beat Georgia State and then went to a night game in Death Valley and beat LSU 24-19.

Last week they were beaten by No. 1 Georgia in Auburn 34-10.

The Tigers are a physical team with an experienced quarterback in Bo Nix, although some boosters would prefer T.J. Finley, who transferred from LSU, to be the starter. He has completed 17 of 32 passes for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns.

So far, Harsin is calling his own shots like Bowden, Tuberville, Chizik and Malzahn did.

Auburn is a great school, and if the boosters were as interested in academics as they are football, it would be an even greater school.